March 18, 2020, Off the West Coast of Australia
Last night we crossed another time zone, the last one we will cross on this ship. We’re gone as far “west” as the ship will go. We’re lucky that we took a big detour east around the bulge of Brazil at the start instead of heading directly through canal to the Pacific. If we had we would have encountered the COVID-19 virus sooner, and perhaps not known we had it on the ship. We’ve traveled the world from about 52o west to about 115o east and gone just a little south of 65o. That’s actually a lot of the earth to cover, more than most people.
I’m making these calculations to help me remember just how lucky I am. Reading over the blog helps as well, seeing photos that I took and reading my impressions. It’s part of practicing gratitude, a practice that I need to work on today because it would be easy to fall into a funk over the early end of the cruise, it’s easy to think, “We should have been in Komodo today, I should be taking that picture of the Dragon that I promised to my grandson Liam.” But of course, I am heading south to Fremantle and the end of the cruise.
I am feeling apprehensive this morning. I find that odd because during our evacuations from trouble spots when we were aid workers, I didn’t feel that way. Suzi says that it’s because I don’t have that rush of adrenaline that I had back then. Perhaps that’s true, but back then I also felt I had more control over my actions. Also, I was younger. And that plays into the other part of the apprehension. We’re elderly (old) are a target for the virus. We’re leaving a ship that is pretty healthy. It is constantly cleaned, disinfected, swabbed, and we all get the message to wash our hands a lot. While practicing social distancing on the ship is difficult, people are changing behavior, hitting elevator buttons with elbows, waving instead of hugging, and leaving space for each other. We’ve had only one port call where there were known infections when we called, Sydney. I know it could have also been in other ports and just not diagnosed but I feel pretty safe on this ship. And we seem to have an unlimited supply of hand sanitizer and toilet paper. (Should I bring a roll home with me?)
They are letting us out into a world where we will stand on security lines, be crammed onto an airplane and then have to stand in line for health screening and customs in a way that could actually facilitate the spread of disease. So yeah, I am feeling apprehensive.
Also, we have 6 days before our scheduled flight out, who knows what will happen in that time, will flights still be going? Will the borders close? Will Australia still take us in? Those are beyond my control.
So, I need to concentrate on gratitude, gratitude for what we have today, wonderful memories, a beautiful blue sky with fair winds and following seas. I need to practice gratitude for my own wellbeing and as a way to help some of my shipmates, some of whom are depressed and angry. And I need to practice it withing being cloyingly Pollyannaish.
March 19, 2020, Still off the coast of Western Australia.
I wrote the above before breakfast yesterday morning. During Breakfast we learned that Delta has canceled flights to and from Australia. This follows several Quantas cancelations. Captain Mercer went on the PA system to say HAL shoreside would help anyone canceled get new reservations. They would automatically do it for people HAL has booked and do it on request for the rest of us. Yesterday the whole staff mobilized to try to get people on flights. The ship opened up the internet to those who didn’t buy packages so they could make arrangements, which of course nearly brought the internet to a screeching halt. They also opened up the ship’s phone lines for free calls. I called my travel insurance company to start the process. The lady told me that my trip interruption insurance did not cover an event like this, but she advised me to file a claim anyway, because things may change. Glenn-Michael, HAL’s on board guide who does port lectures joked that he is adding travel agent to his CV. There was a lot of anxiety on board about getting home as word spread about the US Canada border closing. What next? So far, we are on Emirates and it is flying but we have registered our outbound with HAL in case our flight is canceled. We flyout March 23. Anything could happen between now and then.
But in the meantime, we are traveling at a leisurely pace (12 knots) along the West Coast of Australia. I think one of the reasons, if I read the Australian news correctly, (and I was only able to download one Perth newspaper in text, given the internet connections) is that they are allowing ships to discharge passengers if they have been in Australian waters 14 days. I think this is kind of a quarantine. When we reach Fremantle we will have been in Australia 14 days.
We’ve had beautiful weather and Suzi and I went to the top deck to look at the southern sky. It rakes at least 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark and to really see the stars. But as one of our lecturers said “only a small fraction of humanity ever sees the southern sky, too bad, that’s where all the good stuff is.” And it’s true. From the south you look directly through toward the center our galaxy, the Milky Way cutting through the Southern Cross, and the Magellanic Clouds are breathtaking. Gratitude indeed.